Three Church of England secondary schools recently highlighted by the Fair Admissions Campaign as amongst the most socio-economically and ethnically selective in the country have been found by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) to have admissions policies that break the School Admissions Code. Twyford Church of England High School in Ealing, Archbishop Blanch CofE VA School in Liverpool, and the Grey Coat Hospital in Westminster, will both now have to rewrite their policies to bring them in line with the OSA’s determinations. The Fair Admissions Campaign has welcomed the decisions.
Twyford CofE High School
In addition to requiring weekly worship attendance by parent and child for at least five years, Twyford Church of England High School currently prioritises pupils on the basis of activities such as ‘Bell ringing’, ‘Flower arranging at church’, ‘Assisting with collection/counting money’, ‘Tea & coffee Rota’, ‘Church cleaning’, ‘Church maintenance’, ‘Parish Magazine Editor’ and ‘Technical support’: the school has the most extreme admissions policy the Campaign is aware of. As a consequence, 10% of pupils are eligible for free school meals (FSM) and 10% speak English as an additional language (EAL), compared to 28% locally on FSM and 56% on EAL. This puts it in the top 1% most exclusive on both measures, when compared to all other schools. The school was recently featured in The Times because of the extremity of its criteria.
The school’s head defended its policy as ‘We believe that it is… implicit that practical assistance in the running of a church or other place of worship is acceptable, provided these activities are clearly related to the spiritual life of the community. Activities such as flower arranging and church/mosque/temple cleaning are an essential aspect of the setting up for, or clearing up after, worship.’ However, the Schools Adjudicator determined that the list of activities constitutes requiring financial and practical support for a place of worship (which is not allowed) and so must be removed. In addition, the criteria were found to break the Code in specifically discriminating against those of no faith, in requiring participation in religious activities for the 30 places each year set aside as for those of ‘World Faiths/No faith’. A number of further breaches were found, such as requiring both parents to put details on forms, and prioritising those with a lower door number in a block of flats over those with a higher number.
In addition to requiring weekly worship attendance by parent and child for at least four years, Archbishop Blanch gives applicants points for ‘Involvement of the family in Church life beyond simple attendance at weekly worship’. The meaning of this is not defined, but elsewhere there is reference to ‘e.g. certificate of reception into the church, baptism, communion and confirmation certificates. Other evidence could include altar server certificates, or letters of support from Sunday School or Children’s Liturgy etc.’ It admits 13% eligible for FSM, compared to 43% locally – again putting it in the worst 1% nationally. It also admits 11% speaking EAL, compared to 28% locally – which puts it in the worst 3%.
Here the Schools Adjudicator determined that ‘the arrangements do not conform with the requirements of the legislation and the School Admissions Code in relation to the fact that parents must easily be able to understand how any faith-based criteria will be reasonably satisfied and priority must not be given on the basis of any practical support.’ The school was found to also break the Code in eleven other places, including failure to consult.
Grey Coat Hospital
Meanwhile, the Grey Coat Hospital not only requires weekly church attendance for five years but also gives points for ‘Parent holding elected office in the church’, ‘Regular practical involvement by a parent in the church’ and ‘Regular involvement in other aspect of church life’. 14% of pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 33% locally – putting it in the worst 1% of schools nationally. 25% speak EAL, compared to 48% locally – putting it in the worst 2% of schools nationally.
The Schools Adjudicator determined that this constitutes requiring practical support to the Church, is unclear and in addition ‘some families and especially single parent families could find it harder to get involved in church activities because the absence of a second parent to either take part in the scored activity, or to look after any siblings while another participates, creates child care and other issues.’ A number of further aspects of the admissions criteria were found to also break the Code, including their general complexity.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Chair of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education, commented ‘Whereas the founder of their faith urged followers to “suffer the children” and welcome them, some Church schools are doing the exact opposite, by making admission demands that discriminate and exclude.’
For further information or comment please contact Paul Pettinger on 020 7324 3071 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.
Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.